An Interview conducted by the Asian Human Rights Commission

NEPAL: The chairperson of the Feminist Dalit Organisation speaks against bad policing and torture

Durga Sob is a prominent Dalit women’s advocate and the chairperson of the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO). She speaks against torture and bad policing in Nepal.

AHRC-ETC-006-2010How is the relationship between the citizens and the police in Nepal?

The relationship between the citizens and the police is not good. The police are supposed to act for the security of the state and the citizens, but it is not able to maintain a close relationship with the citizens. The police and citizens should share the relationship of a finger and a nail, but it is not like that. The government was not facilitating the development of a close relationship between the two. Because of the 10-year-long conflict our country just came out of, the behaviour of the police is not good enough. The citizens were worst hit by the attitude and the behaviour of the police. The situation was so bad that people used to shake in fear when they saw police officers even though they have not done anything wrong. And seeing the police torture and the cases such as the rape case of Suntali Dhami, the Bardiya Killing case, and the Sanu Sunar case; it is almost certain that the police administration, instead of safeguarding and providing security to the citizens, are rather the promoters of impunity in the country. We also shall not forget that although the trend is slowly changing the police is still in the grip of and working under the direction of an handful of powerful people; which is quite the opposite of their mandate. The existing structure of the police administration needs to be turned into a more democratic one.

So what do you think of the relationship between citizens and the police?

Citizens are the supreme power in a country. There is no objection to this, but shamefully the common citizens are being smothered by people in power. Worst and most critical is the condition of Dalits and especially of Dalit women in this sense. Dalits are hardly enjoying any rights.

The police is one of the state-led mechanisms whose major role is to provide security to the citizens. So the police should be totally responsible before the people, committed to promote the citizens’ rights and to take the responsibility to protect their security. Any citizen and the police should share a familial relationship. While approaching the police, the citizen should feel a sense of justice. The citizens should also change their pre-set attitude (‘police are always like this’) towards the police. The government should also create mechanisms which allow the citizens to have an easy access to the police.

What do you think of police use of torture? 

Nepal has signed numerous international covenants and conventions. And of course the police should not torture anybody in custody in the name of investigation and getting information. But here in Nepal, we find police beating the person till he or she dies. We keep on receiving information of custodial deaths. Sanu Sunar of Lalitpur district is a recent example.

The police even continue to beat the arrestees even after they confess to the crime. We cannot think of worse foolishness other than this. It seems that the police enrolled themselves in the job solely to beat the citizens. It should not be like that. We have to tell the police that in any criminal offence, they should follow the legal way to punish the culprits, which will raise sense of security in the innocents.

Do the victims feel safe and secure after filing their cases at the police?

Still citizens do not have direct access to the police. Very few cases reach the police. Talking about our society, people find it better to confine their sufferings to themselves, than to disclose it. There is the thinking that if you go to the police, then it would be more problematic. I see the mistake of both the citizen and police in this. It has happened because of the unfriendly behaviour of the police. There is also the thinking that going to the police may invite unnecessary talk and stigma. The society also views someone differently when it is discovered that they are entangled in police affairs. Ultimately this results in very few cases reaching to the police. And this is also because the victims do not feel any sense of security with the police. To change this, the police should play a helping role. They should respect and help the victims who approach them.

For example if someone is alleged of a theft, the police behave as if the person is guilty from the very beginning. They do not even investigate and try to verify the information. Then the police start beating the suspect mercilessly: how can one have a sense of security in this environment?

People, most of the time, try to avoid going to the police station. They do not feel that they will get any justice there.

What do you think about the domestic violence law in the country?

There is a domestic violence law. But in reality, it has not been implemented properly. There are loopholes in it which should be addressed to properly address the problem.

What do you think of the police administration in totality?

The police lack the understanding and respect of the citizens. So now it is time for us to make the police become aware of those issues as we do not have any other option than this. We need the police so it should be developed as an institution which respects common citizens and is ready to help them when they need it.

The views shared in this interview do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.


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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-006-2010
Countries : Asia
Date : 12-08-2010